The Twelve Caesars

Overview

An essential primary source on Roman history, Suetonius' The Twelve Caesars is a fascinating achievement of scholarship covering a critical period in the Empire. This Penguin Classics edition is translated from the Latin by Robert Graves, author of I, Claudius, revised with an introduction and notes by James B. Rives. As private secretary to the Emperor Hadrian, the scholar Suetonius had access to the imperial archives and used them (along with eyewitness accounts) to produce one of the most colourful ...

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Overview

An essential primary source on Roman history, Suetonius' The Twelve Caesars is a fascinating achievement of scholarship covering a critical period in the Empire. This Penguin Classics edition is translated from the Latin by Robert Graves, author of I, Claudius, revised with an introduction and notes by James B. Rives. As private secretary to the Emperor Hadrian, the scholar Suetonius had access to the imperial archives and used them (along with eyewitness accounts) to produce one of the most colourful biographical works in history. The Twelve Caesars chronicles the public careers and private lives of the men who wielded absolute power over Rome, from the foundation of the empire under Julius Caesar and Augustus, to the decline into depravity and civil war under Nero and the recovery that came with his successors. A masterpiece of observation, anecdote and detailed physical description, The Twelve Caesars presents us with a gallery of vividly drawn - and all too human - individuals. James B. Rives has sensitively updated Robert Graves's now classic translation, reinstating Latin terms and updating vocabulary while retaining the liveliness of the original. This edition contains a new chronology, further reading, glossaries, maps, notes and an introduction discussing Suetonius' life and works. Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus was probably born in AD69 - the famous 'year of the four Emperors'. From the letters of Suetonius' close friend Pliny the Younger we learn that he practiced briefly at the bar, avoided political life, and became chief secretary to the Emperor Hadrian (AD117-38). Suetonius seems to have lived to a good age and probably died around the year AD140. If you enjoyed The Twelve Caesars, you might like Tacitus's The Annals of Imperial Rome, also available in Penguin Classics. 'Suetonius, in holding up a mirror to those Caesars of diverting legend, reflects not only them but ourselves: half-tempted creatures, whose great moral task is to hold in balance the angel and the monster within' Gore Vidal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140455168
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/18/2007
  • Series: Penguin Classics Series
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 238,590
  • Product dimensions: 5.03 (w) x 7.76 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus was probably born in AD69 - the famous ‘year of the four Emperors’. From the letters of Suetonius’ close friend Pliny the Younger we learn that he practiced briefly at the bar, avoided political life, and became chief secretary to the Emperor Hadrian (AD117-38). Suetonius seems to have lived to a good age and probably died around the year AD140. James Rives teaches in the area of Classical Studies at Stanford University. Professor Rives is currently serving as Review Editor for Phoenix, Journal of the Classical Association of Canada.

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Table of Contents


Abbreviations     vii
Chronology     viii
Introduction     xvii
Analyses of the 'Lives'     xlii
Further Reading     liii
A Note on the Text     lviii
Divus Julius     1
Divus Augustus     43
Tiberius     104
Gaius Caligula     145
Divus Claudius     178
Nero     207
Galba     242
Otho     255
Vitellius     263
Divus Vespasian     274
Divus Titus     288
Domitian     295
Glossary of Terms     311
Glossary of Place Names in Rome     319
Key to Maps     325
Maps     330
Family Trees     343
Notes     347
Index of Historical Persons     382
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  • Posted July 16, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I have always enjoyed Roman history and reading the classical hi

    I have always enjoyed Roman history and reading the classical historians, but I had not yet found time to read Suetonius's De vita Caesarum. In Donna Leon's Brunetti series, the Commissario often reads The Twelve Caesars, and I thought it was about time I read the book.

    I do not read Latin, so I read the updated Robert Graves translation. Suetonius has a reputation for scandalous writing, the kind of writing seen in the more outlandish celebrity coverage. "Emperor Nero caught burning down Rome" with associated paparazzi photographs.

    Suetonius compared to Tacitus and other Roman historians is certainly more that way, though I think his reputation here is a bit overblown. In general, he proceeds along a calm if interesting path. Suetonius begins his brief biographies with Julius Caesar and ends with Domitian. Both Julius Caesar and Augustus receive the longest biographies, with the short reigns of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius are appropriately short. Each biography follows a set structure (mostly): Background with omens of eventually becoming emperor, primary "accomplishments" during the reign, physical description, death, and omens regarding the death. Suetonius makes much use of letters and quotes the emperors and others, which is not a common practice. Suetonius provides a lot of information about what these emperors were like along with interesting details of daily Roman life along the way.

    Enjoyable, humorous at times, and engaging, for those interested in the early principate, read Suetonius's The Twelve Caesars.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 16, 2012

    INFORMATIVE AND EASY TO UNDERSTAND

    After reading several other historical books, one name kept coming up over and over again as a reference - SUETONIUS! It is the most intact of the ancient accounts, and he had access to information long destroyed or lost. James Rives has taken Robert Graves translation and updated it to perfection...truly worthy of a Penguin publication!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 13, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent

    This was one of the best books that I have ever read- Suetonius' The Twelve Caesars is filled with both horror and humor- making it quite entertaining. Suetonius provides the reader with descriptions of the history, lifestyle, and behavior of each Caesar (i.e. Caligula used to sit and make horrible faces in front of a mirror for several hours...), as wells as excellent physical descriptions of each Caesar (hairstyle, facial features, physique, and even clothing).

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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